Manufacturing’s biggest stage needs the U.S. message

With high productivity, low energy prices and sophisticated leadership, the United States continues to lead the world in manufacturing output… Now is not the time to rest on that accomplishment. It’s time to double down on U.S. manufacturing’s role as a world leader.
By Bob Vavra May 5, 2015

Bob Vavra, content manager, Plant EngineeringIf you’re a golfer, you dream of teeing it up at the U.S. Open. If you’re a singer, you’d want to audition for American Idol. If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, you’d probably enjoy competing on Top Chef, especially if you enjoy being yelled at by Gordon Ramsay.

No matter what you’re good at, you want to show off your talent on the biggest stage possible. For manufacturing, there is no bigger stage than Hannover Messe, and there is going to be no bigger year for U.S. manufacturing to showcase itself on the biggest stage than 2016. In just 11 months, the United States will be the Partner Country at Hanover Messe 2016, the first time in 20 years the U.S. has held this designation and the first time a U.S. president is expected to speak at the fair’s opening ceremony.

India was the 2015 Partner Country at Hannover Messe, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his speech at the opening ceremony last month to make an impassioned case for how and why manufacturers should look to expand their business into India.

The U.S. need make no such proclamation. With high productivity, low energy prices and sophisticated leadership, the United States continues to lead the world in manufacturing output. While India, China and most of Europe outside of Germany have struggled in recent years, the U.S. has seized on its advantages and reclaimed the high ground in manufacturing.

Less than a decade ago, there were predictions that the U.S. would become a second-rate manufacturing economy. But when the economy tanked seven years ago, it was U.S. manufacturing (on its own the world’s 9th largest economy) that led the way out. The success has burnished the reputation of Made in America.

Now is not the time to rest on that accomplishment. It’s time to double down on U.S. manufacturing’s role as a world leader.

There’s never been a more crucial time to assert that role. Economic growth here and around the world depends on a strong and expanding U.S. economy-not to the exclusion of others, but with the goal of improving more economies.

It is also inescapably true that even with the strength of the U.S. manufacturing sector, four of every five things manufactured in the world are made outside of the U.S. Many of those products, however, are made by U.S. companies, and many of the most prosperous and progressive manufacturing in the U.S. comes from foreign direct investment from companies like BMW and Volkswagen and Toyota.

We need more of both. We need more American manufacturers looking to expand their operations to other countries as a way to grow both economies. At the same time, we must look to aggressively attract more foreign investment as a way to build jobs and economic growth. Doing both is the sign of a true leader. It is what America aspires to: a leadership role in the world. It is what we deliver each day in manufacturing.

World manufacturing is a borderless economy, interconnected and interdependent. The United States has been the economic leader for the last decade. Hannover Messe offers the biggest possible stage to showcase that American manufacturing leadership. We’re going to spend the next 18 months telling the story of how that interconnected manufacturing strategy benefits everybody, every day. We’re going to highlight manufacturers from the U.S. that have found success with expanded manufacturing, and we’re going to showcase the value of foreign direct investment.

We also need to begin to prepare our message for Hannover Messe 2016 next spring. We need to bring a large contingent of manufacturers to Hannover next April to see this spectacle, to learn and to teach and to share. Plus, it’s Germany in the spring, and as someone who has been there for many of those in the past decade, it is a great sight to behold. There’s also beer, but I don’t want to make that the primary selling point. In the past decade, Hannover Messe’s 250,000 attendees have heard the manufacturing stories from South Korea and Russia and India and the Netherlands and China. It’s time they heard from us, loud and strong.

– Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media, bvavra@cfemedia.com